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Northwestern's Ravi Shankar in front of wall with writing in his office.

Ravi Shankar appointed President and Chairman of Board of Directors of NAFSA: Association of International Educators

International education enhances learning and scholarship and fosters good standing and respect among a diverse group of people.”

Ravi Shankar
Director, International Office, Northwestern; and President and Chairman, Board of Directors, NAFSA: Association of International Educators

After receiving a comprehensive international education, Ravi Shankar decided to work in international education to help others have the same experience. Born in India, Shankar grew up in the United Kingdom before moving back to India to attend university. There, he received a bachelor’s degree and a graduate degree before moving to Kenya to pursue a second graduate degree. After living on three different continents by the age of 25, Shankar came to the United States for a Master of Arts in International Education at the School for International Training (SIT) in Vermont.

This month, Shankar, director of Northwestern’s International Office, will become President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of NAFSA: Association for International Educators. He previously served the organization as Vice President of Professional Development and Engagement on NAFSA’s Board of Directors. NAFSA, the world's largest professional nonprofit organization dedicated to international education, serves over 10,000 members in 150 countries.

Shankar, who has worked at Northwestern for almost 18 years, began his work with NAFSA in 1996 as a community college regional representative. He has stayed involved with the organization because he strongly believes in its mission and the importance of international education.

“International education provides not only diversity of culture, but also diversity of thought and diversity of perspectives, and I think all of those promote dialogue,” Shankar said. “Those are all essentials in developing globally competent individuals.”

When Shankar assumes the presidency, he will work with NAFSA and the Board of Directors towards the strategic goals set for the organization by the Board earlier this year. Chief among those goals is to increase NAFSA’s work with other international education groups, both at home and abroad. 

“Because we can’t be everything to everyone, how do we collaborate with all the other associations?” Shankar said. “How does the association handle the dynamics of inter-association work?”

Shankar started working in the International Office at Northwestern in 2001, after holding positions at the Illinois Institute of Technology and the College of DuPage. He credits Northwestern as part of the reason he was able to take on this new role.

“I am very grateful to the university for really supporting my work with NAFSA— without which, I never would have gotten involved to this level,” Shankar said.

NAFSA, with its wide global network, is a professional hub and connector for many of Northwestern’s international educators.

Several study abroad advisors, such as Sara McGuinn and Whitney Bennett, have participated in NAFSA’s Academy for International Education, a year-long intensive training program for staff in their early careers. Janka Pieper, director of communications in the Office of the Vice President for International Relations, is the co-founder and co-chair of NAFSA’s Marketing and Communications Member Interest Group, which brings together international communications professionals to discuss best practices, share resources and offer networking opportunities.

Catrina DeBord of the Undergraduate Learning Abroad office assumed her new role as NAFSA Region V Chair-Elect (covering Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin) this month, and has also been serving as the Region V Education Abroad representative since 2017. Emlyn Torres from the International Office has been the organization’s advocacy coordinator for several years and has presented at several regional and annual conferences, as have many other Northwestern staff members. 

In today’s climate, Shankar believes his work, and the work of other professionals in international education, both at Northwestern and at NAFSA, is crucial.

“I can think of no better way to promote diplomacy and create the connectedness that promotes peace and justice,” he said.